Clock management backfires on Cowboys, saves Lions precious time

Posted Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The Dallas Cowboys held a 3-point lead when they got the ball back at the Detroit 31 with 1:24 remaining, but the Lions still held two timeouts. What to do....

Joseph Randle lost 3 yards on first down, and Phillip Tanner lost 1 yard on second down. With the Lions out of timeouts with 1:14 left, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett chose to run the ball again instead of taking a knee.

“We were on the cusp of field-goal range, so I think what was critical at that point was to make sure we didn’t have any runs go backward and try to get a run that goes forward to give us a better chance to kick that field goal,” Garrett said. “We were on the 35-yard line. We were right there. So that was the thought... to get a run that goes north and south and be a positive play for us.”

While Tanner went 9 yards on third-and-14, left tackle Tyron Smith was called for holding. The Lions declined the penalty, but it stopped the clock with 1:07 left.

Smith declined comment.

“That’s a big play in the game,” Garrett said. “You get the holding penalty there, and that stops the clock.… [The plan is] you get the third-down run, and you get the clock down to about 30 or so seconds, maybe even below that, and increase your chances of winning when you take that time off the clock.”

The Cowboys kicked a 44-yard field goal to take a 30-24 lead, but they left the Lions with 1:02 remaining. It was plenty enough time for Calvin Johnson and Detroit to go 80 yards for a game-winning touchdown.

Waters ailing

Cowboys right guard Brian Waters is dealing with knee, rib and triceps injuries that leave his availability for next week — if not longer — in doubt.

Waters, 36, is scheduled to undergo MRI exams on Monday.

He went down grabbing his left knee in the second quarter. Waters returned for one series of the second half before the other injuries sent him to the sideline for the day.

“Just trying to make it out of Detroit alive. That’s about it,” said Waters, who returned to football this season after sitting out 2012.

Owner Jerry Jones said Waters’ triceps and rib injuries are more significant than the knee.

Cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring) and safety Barry Church (hamstring) didn’t finish the game.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Church said. “I just strained my right hammy a little bit. I should be right back next week.”

Claiborne has had an injury-plagued season. He dislocated his shoulder in the season opener, forcing him to play with a harness.

“That’s life,” Claiborne said. “I don’t think [his hamstring is] as bad. I think it’s one of those precaution things not to hurt it any worse than what it was already hurting.”

3 starters sit

Three starters were inactive as running back DeMarco Murray (knee) and defensive end DeMarcus Ware (thigh) missed their second consecutive games and receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) sat out for the third time in five games.

Murray returned to practice last week but was limited. The Cowboys rushed for 62 yards on 26 carries in his absence, with rookie Joseph Randle gaining 26 on 14 totes.

“I think DeMarco Murray could have gone,” Jerry Jones said. “I don’t know what risk we would have taken with him, but he could have gone.”

Ware had never missed a game in his career until last week. He said he did not test his quadriceps before the game.

“It’s just a day-to-day thing,” Ware said.

Offensive struggles

The Cowboys had 134 yards in the first three quarters. They had 134 in the fourth quarter.

“Give them credit,” Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. “That was a very good front we just played against.

“It felt eerily similar to the Minnesota game up in the dome in the playoffs, scheme-wise and a little bit with the way they were able to rush the passer. If you can rush the passer like that in this environment, it’s going to be a very tough place to play. You’re not going to be able to get to your progressions, and you’re not going to be able to get the ball to certain spots.

“I thought the guys did a good job as the game went on, giving us a little more time to get to the second and third reads. We were able to exploit that a little bit more.”

In the past three games, Romo has completed only 56.1 percent of his passes for 693 yards — an average of 231 a game — with five touchdowns and three interceptions.

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

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